Wednesday, July 13, 2011

René Daumal

René Daumal lived from 1908 to 1944. He was a poet, editor, and allegorist during the French Surrealist ferment.

I've read his Mount Analogue and A Night of Serious Drinking. I have the biography by Kathleen Rosenblatt. Daumal was an interesting fellow. And like several others back then with an unusual shape of consciousness, he was drawn to the enigmatic Gurdjieff.

Daumal's story "The Great Magician" was made into a short film. It is available from the links below to Youtube. For me, there is something in this little story that resonates.

Okay. Now I want to digress a bit.

The real Surrealism (in Daumal's case, para- or pata- surrealism) had overtones of darkness and undertones of profundity ringing deeper than what latter-day American mystigogues have given us. I won't name any names, lest the shock offend sensitive admirers and devotees. Back then, the plunge into unconscious energies occasionally brushed up against the mystical, the harsh abyss. Now, we get a cheaper, diluted form -- self-pleased avatars produce effects for effects sake. Or ostensibly uproot the "cool" fibers of American pathology, as if that should be of interest to anyone. Their filmic (or whatever) effusions strike me as bathetic expressions concerned with a banal culture.

Real Surrealism went far beyond such trite cultural commentary. It was not interested in an oh-so ironic inventory, uprooting, and display of a self-important culture's sublimations. Now, we are given America as the exemplary enigma, the generative abyss. My word, what nonsense. Back in France during the '20s and '30s, truly bent minds were concerned instead with the dire-objective. Real soul-stuff.

Surrealism is authentic when concerned with the enigma of World, rather than with theatrics of neurosis.

The Great Magician (Part 1)

The Great Magician (Part 2)

Afterthought: This stuff in general makes me think about Surrealistic painting. What I see painted nowadays in that vein strikes me as 1) straining after effect; 2) displaying shallow sensibility. And even the old stuff -- the more I consider it, the more banal it seems to me. The masters like Dali, De Chirico, Miro, Magritte, and such...again, a straining after effect, though not nearly as off-putting as Contemporary Surrealism. The only old guy whose paintings seem to be genuine expressions of very deep sensibility is Yves Tanguy. A convincing subtlety breathes in his works.

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